Growing up in Boston, Andrea saw how our education system sets some children up for a lifetime of success and leaves far too many behind. Our Boston Public Schools are filled with dedicated teachers and staff and passionate families. Despite their efforts, access to quality schools and a quality education is still too inconsistent and often limited based on race, class, and geography.
Even before the pandemic, we saw these inequities play out on a massive, heartbreaking scale. Children who live in downtown Boston have an 80% chance of getting into a high-quality BPS school, while children who live in Mattapan have only a 5% chance. Outside of our exam schools, 1 out of 3 children don’t graduate from high school and 4 out of 5 don’t get a college degree. For English Learners and special education students, these gaps are even more stark. The effects of COVID, as we near a full year of remote learning for most of our students, have turned this into a full-fledged crisis for our children and our city. Our students, teachers, and schools need our support and conviction today to fight back against these tremendous challenges.
Education is the gatekeeper to our city’s prosperity and the path to opportunity for all our children. In order for Boston to continue to be a world leading city, all of our residents deserve access to an excellent education. On the City Council, Andrea has been a tireless champion for change in Boston’s schools. In 2019, working closely with students, families, teachers, students and community activists, she developed her Action for Boston Children plan, a comprehensive strategy to bring equity to our public schools. As Mayor, Andrea will build upon this plan and work closely with the School Committee and Superintendent to effectuate change in our education system all while holding herself and these stakeholders accountable to the residents of Boston.
As Mayor, Andrea will:
Make BPS More Transparent And Accountable To Families – Especially Through The Pandemic
Despite its rich history and many pockets of success, unfortunately our school system has become a source of frustration for too many of our residents. The district lacks transparency into how and why decisions are made, and too often, families, teachers and school leaders aren’t included in decision-making and don’t know what’s happening. These problems have come to a head during the pandemic. For months, Andrea pushed the Boston Public Schools to report simple data on Chromebook distribution and other crucial metrics around remote learning, only to be stonewalled. When it was finally released, the data showed that many students of color still lacked access to the devices for remote learning they were promised. This can’t be allowed to happen going forward.
- Build a culture of honesty and transparency. Andrea believes we need to have ongoing, honest conversations about our schools: what’s working, and where do we need to do better? As City Councilor, Andrea has consistently called for data and focused the conversation on results for children. She has worked closely with school leaders, parents, teachers and students so that she understands their perspectives and the issues that affect our schools. As Mayor, she will insist on a culture of honesty and transparency, rebuilding communications with families and staff as well as ensuring the School Committee has strong, authentic public debate in a format that is accessible to all members of our community.
- Partner with parents and teachers to make sure school feels safe. We have made great strides in our ability to safely return to school buildings as we recover from COVID-19, but we are not entirely beyond this pandemic and the trauma felt in many of our communities is still raw. Through this summer and the coming fall, now more than ever, we need transparent communication and clear execution on the necessary protocols and facilities upgrades to ensure that families, teachers and staff feel safe in school.
- Make up for lost time. We know our students suffered tremendous isolation and learning disruption during remote learning over the last year and a half. Andrea believes in using transparent data to highlight where our biggest needs are and making key investments to provide academic and mental health supports that address those needs. That should include tutoring and summer programs, planning now for a seamless reopening in the fall, and using one-time federal dollars to invest in curriculum, technology, and school buildings.
Empower And Trust Educators And Families
Andrea believes schools are accountable for supporting students and families, and the central office must be accountable to schools – not the other way around. A great school is built by caring adults who are close to our children, paired with the resources and flexibilities they need to get things done. We need to reimagine the role of the central office and district leadership to make that possible.
- Focus and improve central office’s role. The role of the central office should be to set and maintain high expectations for all schools — such as common graduation requirements, high quality curriculum, and adherence to compliance requirements — and allow our highly skilled educators to implement creative and culturally relevant ways of engaging students and families. In addition to empowering school teams, Andrea believes in holding the central office accountable through robust annual reviews and surveys designed to measure their service to schools. Building a culture of excellence, transparency and results starts at the top.
- Allow schools to control more decision-making and resources. Recent years have witnessed ever-changing plans and increasing directives from the central office to school leaders and staff often without their input or involvement. Andrea believes in giving the right tools — including more resources and decision-making — to school leaders, teachers, and school communities to make decisions that are right for their students.
Nurture High Quality Learning And Enriching Environments Across Every School, For All Learners
BPS families deserve to know that regardless of what school their child attends, and regardless of how they learn, their child will receive a high quality education with clear and high expectations, in a healthy and enriching environment.
- Ensure high quality academics. The research is clear and unsurprising — high quality curriculum matters, and yet is unevenly implemented across schools. Graduation expectations are also inconsistent among Boston high schools. In partnership with teachers and school leaders, Andrea will ensure that the right investments are made to guarantee that each and every student has access to excellent, high quality academics — from early literacy curriculum to the right high school courses — coupled with the resources to meet those expectations.
- Meet the needs of every learner. Andrea knows how important it is to see the spark and potential in each and every child, regardless of how that student learns or what language they happen to speak first. In a district where more than half of our students live in a home where a language other than English is spoken, Andrea believes in embracing the linguistic diversity of our families and investing to ensure the district not only achieves compliance in all schools but also implements programs with demonstrated effectiveness. Andrea also believes we must rethink our approach to special education including providing stronger early supports in our general education program (for instance giving students extra help in learning to read), spreading strong inclusive practices, investing in the level and quality of programs for our highest need students, and attacking the inequity reflected in the disproportionate share of boys of color who are placed in substantially separate environments.
- Provide our students the relevant, engaging high schools they need and deserve to succeed after BPS. The data are crystal clear — Boston has an inequitable high school system, with too many of our highest need students (including students with special needs and English Learners) concentrated in too few schools that lack the resources to successfully prepare them for college, career and life. Andrea believes in the urgent need for change, to build a diverse set of pathways that can connect each individual student with the knowledge, experiences, and skills they need to succeed in the life of their choosing. That includes common high standards for earning a diploma, a new process for our high schools to develop innovative new school models, and finally making good on the promise of Madison Park’s vocational offerings.
- Close the continued gap in early childhood and PreK quality access. While Boston has made progress in expanding seats for 4 year olds, Andrea believes early childhood education needs to start even earlier. Andrea is committed to building Boston into an innovative national leader in supporting children from birth to 5 year olds, including kindergarten readiness standards, professional wages for early childhood educators, clear connections and pathways to elementary schools, and the support that lower-wage working families need to participate in the workforce. As Mayor, Andrea will bring together the range of organizations that support families with young children to create a roadmap for meaningful collaboration and investment, including a long term plan for Boston to develop free universal childcare and education from birth to age 5.
- Support both schools and partners to enable enrichment and out-of-school learning. Boston is rich in its ecosystem of institutions and partners who provide high quality afterschool and youth development opportunities. As a Councilor, Andrea fought for and secured funding for the Boston Youth Development Fund. As Mayor, she will ensure both schools and partners have a whole-child focus that includes arts, athletics, applied learning opportunities like internships, and other connections to the world outside of the school walls, so a young person’s experience in Boston reflects the world class city that we are and we can nurture the passions of our exceptional young people.
Ensure Equitable Access To Quality Schools
Andrea envisions a future where every school can provide the opportunities every child and family deserve. And yet she knows that today, results across schools are uneven, and while that is the case, it is essential that access to the most in-demand schools be equitable. Andrea believes that must include fixing issues in the student assignment system, leveling the playing field for exam school admissions, and placing special education and English Learner programs more evenly across the City.
- Implement research-backed recommendations to improve equity in the assignment system. Multiple reviews of the BPS assignment system have discovered flaws in the process, such as providing access to schools rather than seats. Because many sought-after schools in communities of color are smaller schools, that means that families in those neighborhoods are competing for a small number of seats and have less of a chance to get into a high quality school. Implementing the recommended fixes is long overdue, and the district must follow through with its commitment to annual reviews, so we continuously improve this critical lever for equity. Going forward, that should include assessing the student assignment system for racial bias, for example in studying the effects of housing segregation, the calculation of school quality, and how race affects the high school choice process.
- Make it easier to choose and enroll in a school. In our efforts to prioritize choice and equity, Boston has developed a complicated system for student assignment. Andrea believes we must make it easier for every family, regardless of income, language or neighborhood, to choose a school. Our enrollment process and welcome centers deserve a top to bottom review with the goal of increasing customer satisfaction and equity at each point of interaction with parents.
Get Operations Right, So Schools Can Focus On What Really Matters
Andrea believes deeply in the critical role of the teachers and leaders in schools, but she also knows they can only do their job when the City and district office do theirs — namely, putting in place the infrastructure and operations that enable rich teaching and learning to happen every day.
- Build the school buildings our children and educators deserve. Too many of Boston’s schools are old and poorly maintained, suffering from decades of deferred maintenance. Despite big announcements and lengthy plans, the City has failed to accelerate our pace of building or access more meaningful dollars from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. It is time to restart BuildBPS to ensure our children and educators have the functional, joyful school buildings they deserve. In the next budget, Andrea will be calling for an increase in the City’s capital budget to fund acceleration of school building.
- Bus less, bus better. Boston spends too much money on transportation, our students spend too much time on buses and buses are too often late, leading to lost learning time. Making matters worse, excess buses also unnecessarily clog our streets and pollute our air. It’s past time to bring our school buses into the 21st century. Our buses should be equipped with devices that give turn-by-turn directions, parents should be able to communicate more easily with drivers, and we should accelerate the process to electrify our fleet. Of course, we must also bus the right students — BPS has a complex student assignment system, but that is no excuse for empty buses driving around to pick up students who do not want or need transportation. BPS must have better systems to allow students to opt-out of transportation while ensuring that critical services, such as door-to-door transportation for students with disabilities, get to the right students. As Mayor, Andrea will also lead efforts to explore other creative solutions, such as partnering more closely with the MBTA or creating dedicated school bus lanes and routes, all with the goal of reducing the current $131 million BPS transportation budget.
- Close the digital divide. Unequal access to devices and the internet exacerbated the disparities of the pandemic. It’s past time to ensure every student has a device, a connection, and technical assistance, so that if schools do need to be remote, all of our children are able to continue learning. And while we are all eager to return to safe, in-person learning, the benefits of technology-enabled personalized learning and technology skills for students will continue once the pandemic is behind us.
Build A Diverse And Robust Talent Pipeline
We need teachers and principals that reflect the children we serve in Boston Public Schools. And once we identify them, we need to support them and keep them at BPS — turnover continues to be too high for teachers, principals, and central office staff.
- Increase recruitment of educators of color. Despite years of effort, Boston has struggled to make a meaningful change in the diversity of its educators. As Mayor, Andrea would make more dramatic investments in this work and hold local universities accountable for partnering to increase pipelines for educators of color, since underrepresentation in preparation programs challenges BPS’ ability to hire school-based personnel who reflect student demographics.
- Invest in our dedicated teachers. The pandemic forced our educators to rethink school. Despite the deep challenges, dedicated teachers across Boston have pushed their practice and learned new tools to connect with students. While we are all eager to return to safe, in-person learning, Andrea believes we can capitalize on what we’ve learned about digital literacy, student engagement and personalization so that when we return, what comes next can be even better than we were before. As Mayor, Andrea will prioritize a range of supports for our teachers, particularly in the areas of technology, research-backed curriculum, social and emotional learning and language supports to connect with EL students. She also believes all educators and staff can benefit from programs to foster cultural competency.
- Keep the great principals leading our schools. School leaders play critical roles in the district, but the extraordinary demands of the job and uneven support from the district has led to high turnover. Rethinking the role of central office to better support principals, along with leveraging partnerships and coaching supports, can help improve principal tenure.
There are no shortcuts or silver bullets to building excellent schools. Boston needs steady, consistent and courageous political leadership so we can ensure every student, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, income, language, or neighborhood has a world-class public school education. Andrea knows first-hand that the support and opportunities given a child can make the critical difference in allowing them to pursue their dreams and a life of their choosing. Andrea will provide that leadership for Boston.